Sennheiser Microphones for the Studio and Stage

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When I heard that B&H InDepth wanted to do an article on Sennheiser stage and studio microphones, I jumped at the opportunity to write it. As both a touring performer and an audio engineer, these mics have been the go-to tools of my trade for years. Their versatility, durability, and all-around excellence never disappoint. The catalog of Sennheiser microphones is quite large, but I’m going to focus on a few of my favorites.

MK4 Condenser Microphone

The MK4 condenser is the latest addition to Sennheiser’s versatile line of microphones. It features a 1-inch, large-diaphragm, 24k gold-plated capsule with a cardioid polar pattern. It has surprisingly low noise for its price and its shockmount does an effective job of isolating it from vibration and rumble.

The MK4 is designed with a wide frequency range and high SPL handling for all-around studio use, but I particularly like it on acoustic guitar. Its sound quality and response draw comparisons to far more expensive microphones. It also excels on vocals, providing a smooth response across the singer’s range of power and dynamics.

e935 Stage Vocal Microphone

The e935 is an ideal vocal microphone for singers who are on a different stage every night, but don’t have the tour support to be working with the same PA and sound engineer. It offers very high gain before feedback, even in small and/or loud stage environments. Its cardioid pattern is tight, but not to the point of being restrictive. It allows the performer enough leeway to sound on-mic while being reasonably off axis. This is especially useful for performers who also play an instrument—with your mic mounted to a boom stand, you’ll need some freedom to move.

I’ve also found it to be a great mic for vocalists who don’t like the way they sound through the standard-issue stage vocal mic. The e935 offers greater intelligibility and smoother vocal reproduction than the average stage mic. It also has superior rejection to plosives, which can really muddy up a nice performance.

In the studio, I’ve grabbed the e935 in a pinch for toms, the batter side of a kick drum, and the tops of skinned percussion instruments. Its versatility never fails to impress, always delivering adequate results—even on sources outside its intended use.

e609 and e906 Guitar-Amplifier Microphones

The e609 and e906 microphones are always among the top choices for miking a guitar amp. The main difference between the two is the 3-position mid-frequency character switch featured on the e906. Both mics feature a supercardioid polar pattern, very fast transient response, and rugged construction. A thoughtful extra of their design is the shape; these microphones can be hung over the top of a guitar amp and supported by the cable. This really comes in handy on small stages where another mic stand just isn’t going to fit.

In the studio, the 3-position switch on the e906 can be a real time-saver. Rather than spending extra time on the amp settings or putting a parametric EQ in the signal chain, often times the desired sound can be captured just by finding the right setting on the mic. Both the e609 and the e906 also blend very well with other microphones; pairing them with a ribbon or condenser will yield excellent results.

The e906’s “dark” setting has been a favorite of mine for the underside of snare drums for quite some time. It calms the harshness of the snares while isolating them from the kick. The “bright” setting is great for the tops of bongos, congas, and djembe drums—offering a fast snap and capturing the feel of drum. Additionally, the polar pattern of the e906 is tight enough to allow a pair of them to be used on side-by-side conga or bongo drums, and subsequently panned hard left and right, creating the aural illusion of the two drums being on opposite sides of the mix.

e902 Low-Frequency Dynamic Microphone

The e902 is designed to handle low-frequency, high-SPL instruments such as the cabinet of a bass amplifier or the outside of a kick drum. It has a very fast attack, which can be especially handy for live sound—when you aren’t often putting two mics on a kick drum or taking both a mic feed and a DI from the bass. If you’ve got one shot to capture the low end well, the e902 will get the job done.

In the studio, it yields great results when blended with a DI of the bass guitar. It can also be used on either side of a kick drum and blended with another mic. Its frequency response extends all the way down to 20Hz and the shockmounted capsule ensures that it will be able to capture those frequencies faithfully without rumble or distortion.

e604 and e905 Snare-Drum Microphones

The e604 and e905 were originally designed for snare drums, but offer a multitude of uses. The e604 includes a clip mount that is very useful for crowded stage setups where a snare mic on a boom stand is at risk of being knocked over or interfering with the drummer’s technique. Both microphones handle exceptionally loud SPLs and feature rugged construction that will withstand being smacked with a drumstick a few hundred times.

In the studio, I generally use the e905 on the top of the snare while the e604 is clipped to a tom. I’ve been especially happy with the e604 on floor toms. The e604 is also a great mic for horns, brass, or woodwind. Both microphones feature very fast transient response, which makes them ideal for any loud, punchy instrument. The e905 even sounds great on guitar cabinets.

MD421-II Dynamic Microphone

The MD421-II is generally only seen in high-budget stage setups, but is an absolute staple of recording studios. It features a 5-position low frequency rolloff, high-SPL handling and a tight cardioid polar pattern with high off-axis rejection. It is excellent for electric guitars, drums, vocals, or even broadcast applications.

The most common use I’ve seen for this mic is on toms, because of how directional its response is. I particularly like it on the high tom with a rolloff paired to the drum’s tuning. It is able to reject a great deal of the kick, snare, and crash cymbal while focusing in on the punch of the tom. Combine the MD421-II with a light analog gate and you’ve got a really isolated tom track.

In Conclusion

Any live-sound specialist or studio engineer needs a wide variety of microphones to handle the array of sources that we are required to capture. In addition to excelling in their intended uses, Sennheiser’s microphones have proven to be extremely versatile across a wide set of instruments. In any given studio session, it never fails that I reach for at least one of them. Whether you’re working on a limited budget or with a bottomless locker of microphones, these Sennheiser mics will always come in handy.

For more information on these Sennheiser microphones, stop by the B&H SuperStore in New York, speak with a sales professional on the telephone at 1-800-606-6969 or contact us online via Live Chat.